Stranded in the Desert…Now What?

Stranded in the Desert...Now What?

( – Have you ever considered what you would do if you were to be stranded in a desert? While you may not think it will happen to you, don’t ever assume it won’t. Droughts can strike just about anywhere, potentially bringing desert-like conditions with them.


Water is your most precious resource when in the blistering desert heat. Because your body needs to stay hydrated in order to function properly, you’ll need to focus on avoiding losing water, obtaining water, and finding shelter. The climate is dry, and the temperatures are unforgiving, fluctuating heavily between night and day. Dehydration is the biggest threat, and it can happen rapidly.

Avoid Water Loss

The first thing you need to do if you find yourself stranded in the desert is to focus on not losing what water you do have. To avoid excessive loss, you need to avoid the sun and do your best to stay cool. Believe it or not, wearing a thick jacket could be a solid solution.

Much like the loose-fitting robes that are worn in the Middle East, jackets protect your skin from the sun’s harsh UV rays. The jacket will also help insulate your body and keep sweat close to your skin to allow you to stay cooler. It may seem counterintuitive to wear a jacket in the desert, but it actually helps — not to mention the fact that temperatures can dip below freezing at night in some deserts.

Also, do any work that needs to be done at night to avoid dehydration.

Locating Water

Your next priority is to find water. In a desert that may seem nearly impossible, but it’s not. Keep in mind where there’s vegetation, there’s water. Look for dried stream beds as well, especially ones with plant life growing around them, which could indicate underground springs. The idea is to find low spots where mud is present; when you find some mud, start digging.

Water is the most precious resource you can find in a desert during a survival situation, so you can’t afford to waste any of it. You can craft a solar still to make otherwise undrinkable water drinkable. To build the still you’ll need some plastic (clear works best), a piece of tubing or hose, a small rock and a container to catch the water in.

A solar still is not much more than a hole in the ground. You’ll need to dig a hole about two feet deep in the middle and as big as your plastic will cover; be sure to angle the sides. Next, place your container securely in the middle to avoid spilling. Secure one end of your hose or tubing to the bottom of the container and the other outside of where the plastic covers. The bottom of the still is complete.

From here you fill the hole with any plant cuttings or liquids you can find. After you’ve filled the hole with plant matter, urine and other items or liquids, cover the hole with the plastic and anchor and seal the plastic all of the way around. Take your small stone and place it in the middle of the plastic, over the container.

The plastic will help the earth within the hole increase its temperature to higher than the ambient air around it. The increase in temperature will cause any water in the plants or liquids you placed in the hole to evaporate. The plastic will then stop the evaporated water from escaping. When the gaseous water hits the cooler air, it condensates and runs down the plastic into your container, where you can then drink the water through the tube or hose.

Be sure to include plastic and hose or tubing in your survival kit to make at least two stills for every person in your group. Water is hard to find in the desert, but not impossible.


The desert is an unforgiving landscape, and without shelter, you’re not going to last long at all. There may be naturally occurring structures that can keep you out of harm’s way, or you can use a tarp or your survival pack to create a shelter out of your vehicle. Remember, the desert’s heat and the sunlight will quickly drain and dehydrate you, so it’s best to wait until it’s cooler to build your shelter.

The desert isn’t the only place where you might need to protect yourself from the elements. Check out these shelters that you can set up quickly, even if it’s just to keep the sun off you.

Do you know any desert survival tips that weren’t covered here? Did you find this article useful? Let us know by replying to your email! We would love to hear from you!

Copyright 2021,